Noctilucent clouds being seen a lower latitudes

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From DNA:

“These clouds exist literally on the edge of space,” said James Russell, principal investigator for NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite, adding that the clouds form only in a very narrow band a little more than 50 miles (80km) above Earth’s surface. According to a report in National Geographic News, once seen mostly in the Arctic, night-shining clouds are now appearing more frequently at lower latitudes. Scientists suspect that the increase in night-shining clouds may be due to climate change. Even as surface temperatures rise, the upper atmosphere is getting colder due to the buildup of carbon dioxide, creating perfect conditions for cloud formation, according to experts…

High-altitude night-shining clouds are similar in structure to lower-level clouds – a fact that is “startling,” according to AIM deputy principal investigator Scott Bailey, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “That’s because the two types of clouds form under such radically different conditions,” Bailey said. AIM’s data on night-shining clouds have told scientists a lot about the upper atmosphere. “The processes that control these clouds are very likely similar to the ones that control clouds down near the surface of Earth,” said Bailey…

In addition, more night-shining clouds tend to light up the skies during times when the sun is quiet, according to Daniel Marsh of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “That’s because when solar activity is most intense, ultraviolet radiation breaks up the air” water molecules and prevents the clouds from forming,” Marsh said. Volcanoes also inject water vapor into the upper atmosphere, which can lead to night-shining clouds.

Ophir: Town embarks on $1 million project for new water supply and storage

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Ben Fornell):

The project endeavors to replace Ophir’s water treatment plant, create a new source for the water, and build a 35,000-gallon storage tank. The current water-treatment plant is old, and bleeding the town’s meager coffers, as the repairs seem to never end. And a water tank, Barnes said, is a public safety necessity. “What if we had to put out a fire?” Barnes asked. “We need that kind of capacity.”

Previously, the town had relied on an archaic system that took water from Warner Springs with a simple redwood box. “You could have dropped a kid’s floaty boat in and watch it go right into our pipe,” Barnes said. The new system features a device that will run alongside a creek in Waterfall Canyon and take a bit more water with more filtration capabilities…

The project was financed with $390,000 through a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and an interest-free loan of $500,000 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Barnes said one of the town’s biggest goals was keeping the project affordable for its roughly 200 residents, and not creating a new mil levy to pay for it. As of now, the project will be financed through the town’s existing 2.9 mil debt service levy. However, the town has increased water fees by $20 per quarter to help pay for future water expenses.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Moab: Progress report on moving uranium tailings

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Abut 630,000 tons will have been moved from Moab to the disposal cell near Crescent Junction by year’s end, said Wendee Ryan of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Energy Department and its contractor, Energy Solutions Corp., began moving the tailings pile this year. Moab residents and downstream water providers lobbied for years to have the 16-million-ton pile of mill tailings moved from its spot along the north bank of the Colorado River to a cell up against the Bookcliff Mountains at Crescent Junction that is deemed less likely to contaminate the river.

The pile is being moved by train from Moab to the disposal cell 30 miles north. It takes about 80 minutes for the train to travel to Crescent Junction with a full load of tailings, Ryan said. “It’s very slow and deliberate,” she said.

There, the contents of each 33-ton and 40-ton container placed in the cell are marked via Global Positioning System, said Fred Smith of Energy Solutions. The cell, in which native earth has been scoured out to form a half-mile-wide pit, will be filled with tailings and then recovered with the native earth. Once the tailings pile has been moved, it will fill a cell about a half-mile wide and a mile long, Smith said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Regional Rotary Clubs are working together to help fund the construction of new water filtration systems and sanitary latrines in Nicaragua

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From the Longmont Daily Times Call. (Magdalena Wegrzyn):

Seven regional Rotary Clubs have combined forces to support a project that will fund the construction of new water filtration systems in the northern Nicaraguan villages of Los Pinares, Barrio Nuevo and Miraflor. Clubs of Boulder Valley, Carbon Valley, Conifer, Golden, Mead, Twin Peaks and University Hills in Denver have raised $60,518 in donations and grants for the Los Pinares project. Fundraising is still under way for the other two villages. “Once you see the need, you can’t not do something,” said Dale Rademacher, a Mead Rotarian and chairman of the committee organizing the project. “I call these the forgotten people.”

Arkansas Valley: What’s happened to the releases of tamarisk leaf beetles?

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

…after two summers of releases here [Arkansas River Basin], the beetles have eaten little of their favorite food, and experts fear they are leaving, dying or becoming food themselves. “In most cases that I’ve seen so far, it seems like the beetles are gone and we’re trying to come up with ways to deal with that,” said Dan Bean, director of the state’s Palisade Insectary, where the beetles are bred…

In summer 2008, the National Resource Conservation Service released 27,000 beetles along Fountain Creek north of Pueblo. Last summer, after biologists found no trace of the beetles, they released another 15,000. “We did see a slight amount of defoliation, but it often takes a couple years for the beetles to take hold and establish,” said conservation service biologist Patty Knupp. She will return in spring to look for beetles.

Elsewhere in the Arkansas Basin, there have been only a few pockets with slight signs of beetles eating the tamarisk. Said Bean, “There could be some quirks in climate and weather that cause them to not make it, but I think it’s more likely it’s something biological. Something is eating them.” He suspects other insects are the culprit.

One the other hand here’s a story about a mystery population of the little buggers in Fremont County from October 2008. From the post:

On the drive back to Grand Junction after visiting Pueblo in July, Bean noticed the tamarisk at the U.S. 50 bridge over Beaver Creek were yellowing – a tell-tale sign of beetle defoliation. He stopped, and sure enough there was a thriving beetle population in the trees below the bridge. Where the beetles came from is anyone’s guess. The Bureau of Reclamation has, for years, done controlled releases of beetles on trees below Lake Pueblo, but Bean knows of no official releases of beetles upstream of Lake Pueblo. “If the conditions were just right, they could migrate upstream,” Bean said. The beetles were found in a rocky canyon, which is similar to the areas where the same type of insects have thrived in eastern Utah and Western Colorado.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Pagosa Springs: Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District scores $48,700 grant for water audits to help with conservation efforts

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From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chuck McGuire):

Working with Great Western Institute, a Colorado-based non-profit, the district successfully procured the “Water Efficiency Grant” to help cover costs associated with performing “SMART WATER audits” and installing water-conserving fixtures at select local businesses. Last winter, PAWSD conducted pilot SMART WATER audits at various volunteer businesses to gauge potential water savings and community-wide interest in a fixtures retrofit program. In the process, the district evaluates a business’s water use and determines water savings solutions. Typically, the most obvious and efficient actions include replacement of older water-wasting toilets, shower heads, and spray valves, while adding aerators to existing faucets, thereby reducing unnecessary flow and hot water usage. The district also performed irrigation audits to evaluate outdoor water usage by certain homeowner associations. Again, the audits identified needed fixture replacements and established annual reporting requirements, which will later detail water use before and after specified retrofits are made. Too, such “before and after” comparisons will measure program benefits from year to year…

In 2010, PAWSD intends to audit and retrofit another 15 area businesses, at an estimated annual savings of approximately 11.5 acre feet, or 3,747,287 gallons of precious water. The district invites all interested businesses to contact Water Conservation Coordinator Mat deGraaf to learn more about the program, or schedule a consultation for consideration in the next phase of SMART WATER audits beginning in March 2010. Meanwhile, for additional water conservation programs and practices directed at all water users, visit the PAWSD Web site at pawsd.org, click on the Conservation link, then click on Catch the Wave and Save. You can also contact deGraaf at 731-2691.

More conservation coverage here.

Vail Valley: ‘Girls in Science’ expands to five valley schools

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From the Vail Daily:

The Gore Range Natural Science School’s after-school program, Girls In Science, has expanded from one to five Vail Valley Schools. The program was launched at Avon Elementary School in 2007 and then added at Brush Creek Elementary last year. This year, the program is being offered at Avon, June Creek, Brush Creek, Edwards, and Gypsum elementary schools with spaces for 25 students per class. “Girls are truly engaged with this program,” said Markian Feduschak, executive director of the Avon-based Science School, “Educators and administrators value the program’s unique ability to advance literacy, develop lasting role models that inspire careers in science, and build confidence in the classroom.”

Lara Carlson, who teaches the program in Avon, and Natalia Hanks, director of Development at the Science School, started the program. In its first year, Girls In Science was taught by Carlson, fellow Science School colleague Erin-Rose Schneider and Vail Mountain School sophomore Holly Domke. Twenty third through fifth grade girls took the class. On the first day of the program, girls examine their perceptions of who a scientist is. Over the course of the year, lessons are drawn from the natural sciences, engineering, architecture and forensics. Girls build skyscrapers out of paper, mimic tsunami formations with slinky toys and practice the scientific method by determining how many drops of water can fit on the surface of a penny.

More education coverage here.